Paris Saint-Germain tightened their grip on Ligue 1’s top spot thanks to a 1-0 success in Troyes on Saturday that was far from straightforward.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side had to weather a great storm from their opponents before Blaise Matuidi struck midway through the second half against his former club to secure a victory that puts les Parisiens 10 points clear of Olympique de Marseille.
The signs were that PSG were going to endure another frustrating away day before Gregory van der Wiel’s cross on 65 minutes was met at the back post by the France international, whose sweelty-struck shot beat Yohan Thuram.
Although the Troyes goalkeeper had not been overworked prior to that moment, he had proven a big obstacle. After just three minutes he denied Kevin Gameiro when the striker was clear on goal and shortly afterwards he would push away a fierce Lucas Moura drive.
Ligue 1’s bottom side were the more impressive for long stretches of this encounter, particularly in the first period, when Salvatore Sirigu was regularly called into action.
Before the Italy international really started to work, though, he had to rely on the frame of his goal to keep out Stephane Darbion, who was the benefactor of some excellent work from the cunning Benjamin Nivet.
The enterprise the home side were showing was commendable for a team at the foot of the standings and they were rewarded with a number of chances. Sirigu, however, made a string of saves, denying Marcos, Fabien Camus and Nivet in the first half-hour of the game.
Early in the second period it became quickly apparent that there was more vigour in PSG’s performance. Matuidi, in particular, was getting into the box more readily and even before he found the net the ex-Troyes man would crack a shot just wide.
After their midweek exertions, the visitors were content to simply see the game out with a narrow success and made a series of defensive changes in order to secure maximum points, though a late strike from Camus drew another fine stop from Sirigu.
Ultimately Matuidi’s sole goal was enough to secure Ancelotti’s men maximum points and move them closer to a first league title in close to 20 years, and increase the likelihood of this entertaining Troyes side sliding into Ligue 2. The performance was not of a particularly thrilling nature but without the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic the result was all important for PSG.